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  1. Roelstraete at Shinkel's grave, Berlin 2008

  2. Cup by Gailan Ngan

Curatorial Lecture
Dieter Roelstraete

Thing Theory: "Thingness" and the Origin of the Work of Art

PAST - September 17, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Frederic Lasserre Building, Room 102, 6333 Memorial Rd, UBC

Click here for directions

Dieter Roelstraete’s discussion about thing theory is the result of a long-standing intellectual engagement with the question of Heideggerian “Dinglichkeit” that posits the work of art itself as the thing ‘par excellence.’ Roelstraete will consider the status of the work of art as an object and related aspects of thingness such as commodity, fetish, product, and relic. At the heart of his project lies an intuition concerning what Theodor Adorno has termed the “enigmaticalness” of the work of art, an air of mystery and opacity, of resistance to control and instrumentalization, that is closely connected to its material thingness – and it is precisely the enigma of sheer presence and Lacanian resistance that constitutes the spiritual claim of the work of art, a claim that is by its very definition, materially imbedded whether in wood or stone, sound or paint, photographic image or digital mirage.

Dieter Roelstraete (b. 1972) was trained as a philosopher at the University of Ghent and is a curator at the Antwerp museum of contemporary art MuHKA. His current exhibition, The Order of Things is about the use of image archives, image banks and other classificatory impulses in contemporary art. It takes as its point of departure a web-based project by Vancouver artist Roy Arden, The World as Will and Representation, an online archive of some 30,000 jpegs. The exhibition considers the chaotic amount of visual images available in contemporary society and the ironies implied in artistic scrutiny, much of which takes the shape of projects that seek to impose or reveal the hidden order of things and at the same time, adds to the visual overload. The Order of Things includes the work of Canadian artists Roy Arden, Luis Jacob, Arthur Lipsett, and Steven Shearer.

Other curatorial projects have included Emotion Pictures; Intertidal, a survey show of contemporary art from Vancouver; Academy: Learning from Art and The Projection Project. In 2005 he co-curated Honoré d’O: The Quest in the Belgian pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale. An editor of Afterall and a contributing editor to A Prior Magazine and FR David, Roelstraete has written extensively on contemporary art and related philosophical issues including monographic essays and publications on the work of Luc Tuymans, Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, Steven Shearer, Mark Manders, Gabriel Kuri, Iannis Kounellis, and Roy Arden, whose exhibition he curated at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2007. He is a tutor at De Appel Curatorial Training Program in Amsterdam and at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. Dieter Roelstraete lives and works in Berlin and Antwerp.

For further information please contact: Jana Tyner at,
tel: (604) 822-1389, or fax: (604) 822-6689